Facilities Management – a profession

by @paulcarder

I’m in reflective mood. On #WorldFMDay, I thought I should reflect on my affection for, and criticism of, Facilities (or Facility) Management. It is merely one person’s perspective. But it may provide a viewpoint, perhaps useful (or not) for the younger professionals joining our sector. There are some great, varied, and sometimes well-paid careers ahead for people who pick up the education and variety of skills needed in today’s FM market.

And to keep my friends happy, I’ll take the widest definition of FM that you may find! It is different in almost every organisation, and only limited by what one chooses to add to the FM portfolio. And the confidence shown in FM by the leadership of that organisation. That confidence is in the people who lead, manage and deliver FM – and there are some great leaders, managers and ‘do-ers’ around the world. It is a truly global sector.

People often fall into FM …today, it could be a career of choice. And should be.

I didn’t “fall into” FM, as many did a couple of decades ago (today, young people coming into FM can justifiably see it as a career of choice – it wasn’t in the early 1990s). I read about it, and saw it as a new and interesting sector. It wasn’t an FM practitioner who brought me into FM, but an architect and academic, Dr. Frank Duffy CBE, past President of the RIBA. More importantly, Frank was co-founder of DEGW, arguably the first workplace consultancy (see Reading University’s DEGW Archive for further information on this incredible firm). I was lucky enough to work right in the core of his international office, a desk or two away from Frank, Colin Cave (CEO), Professor John Worthington (when he was in :), and to sap up knowledge like a sponge for a year or so.

But I wasn’t an architect, designer, planner or social scientist (of which, DEGW had many greats over the years). I was a graduate Building Surveyor (“a what, sorry?” they said, in Germany or the USA, where I first travelled with the DEGW Workplace Forum). At the time, FM was being defined (it had been in existence for around a decade, publicly at least), and what I was reading was more about “workplace” than FM. That is what appealed – the whole workplace, and its contribution to organisations. A long way from surveying (and still is today, one could argue).

The Total Workplace….FM and organisations

I had Frank Becker’s 1990 book, “The Total Workplace – Facilities Management and the Elastic Organization”. Duffy and Becker were good friends, and I was fortunate to meet and talk with Prof. Becker on a couple of occasions.

I left DEGW, to join Symonds FM, in the office of another great FM thinker, and London Business School MBA, Oliver Jones (a far more successful businessman than the academics at DEGW had unfortunately been). Then I was offered my first company car 🙂 and more money in 1996, to join Procord (an IBM management buy-out of the property and FM department – one of the first large and successful ventures of its kind).

Procord (later Johnson Controls Integrated FM… much later GWS – Global Workplace Solutions …and recently acquired by CBRE) was a “total workplace” provider. And again, I was fortunate enough to get to work with top minds like Barry Varcoe (who later went on to run CRE & FM at Royal Bank of Scotland, and Zurich Financial…and is now an academic at Oxford University! If you’re in FM, you can get to Oxford…! (but only if you have a brain like Barry’s).

Occupiers …it all comes together ‘client side’

It was only really when I had my ‘baptism of fire’ at Barclays Bank in 1999-2003 that I learned the fundamentals of how all the areas of property, capital projects, policy, planning and facilities management came together. And that all of it is led by the occupier organisation – in this case, a large High Street bank. It was all very structured and orderly, and I found it hard going for at least a year. A great team of people, led by another first class mind in Peter Jones (now an MD at G4S) and working alongside someone I learned a lot from, Debi Rowland, now a Director at Sodexo.

10 years… half in consulting/supply-side… half with an occupier, client-side

I think that would be my recommendation for anyone coming into FM …and I would recommend anyone to join FM (though I have argued elsewhere, it is becoming “Workplace Management”…that’s for another day!). There are two sides to FM, and both are vital. Supply-side, working for an FM service provider or consultancy, provides a commercial understanding, and often leading practices. And client-side, working in an occupier team, for only one client…you are the client…provides a true understanding of how FM (and all its peer-group support functions) work together. And how they work with the ‘core’ front-line customer-facing units.

That was appreciation…now onto criticism 🙂 constructive, and necessary

I have not used the word profession above. I have mentioned ‘market sector’, or ‘management discipline’. And for good reason, I think – FM is not there yet. Not unlike many sectors which are only 20-30 years old, the FM sector has not done enough to become a profession…yet. And I’m not, here at least, getting into the issue of whether FM becomes “Chartered” or not (that is a British institutional thing, which albeit now global, is not the only way to become a profession). I don’t have space here to do this subject justice, but made a start in a 2013 blog.

FM needs three things to happen:

  1. the pursuit of excellence. And self-criticism, openly and honestly, with the aim of achieving perfection. Like a surgeon – not slapping themselves on that back and saying ‘how great we are’, but rather, analyzing what could be improved. And being constructively critical of what is wrong with FM.
  2. more continuous learning – and sharing that learning. That means a desire to research, to collaborate, to publish learning for the benefit of other professionals, for the benefit of the profession as a whole, and its customers.
  3. FM must consider society, and the environment (human and natural) as its customers – not just the organisations that pay directly for its services.

As I said in the 2013 blog article, there is hope for FM to become a true profession if we focus on these things:

FM has a promising professional career ahead, making a difference to society, by lifting the human spirit through people’s surroundings and a passion for service. And making a difference to the environment, by providing facilities that do as little damage to the planet as possible, and also give people the opportunity to ‘work, rest and play’ with less need to consume resources for travel.

So, I join into the spirit of #WorldFMDay – we all need to celebrate our successes. And I thank all those of you I have met along the way, over 20+ years, some mentioned above, but many more not. And I hope that, after the celebrations are over for another year, we can all focus on more reflection, self-criticism, research and learning – that will be the route to the true profession of facilities management.

Take care all.


Is Facilities Management Strategic?

by jimware on September 21, 2016

office-buildingIs Facilities Management Strategic? What does it mean to be a strategic business resource?

Those questions are crucial to the future of the Facilities Management (FM) profession.

Please contribute to an important conversation and research project addressing the current state of the FM profession by helping to answer those questions. If you are an FM professional I invite you to participate in a brief global online survey about your FM organization and its current role and relationships, as well as your views about current challenges and opportunities for FM leaders.

The survey includes just 15 questions and will take less than 15 minutes of your time. Click here to complete the survey:


This survey represents an important opportunity for you to contribute to a global conversation about the emerging strategic impact of facilities management. If you complete the survey, we will be happy to send you a summary of our findings once the study is completed.

The survey is part of a study sponsored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). RICS has commissioned Occupiers Journal to update our 2012 report, “Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of FM,” to provide a 2016 view of the state of FM, and analyze trends and developments over the past four years.

The 2012 report can be downloaded for free at this link.

We are also interviewing selected senior FM executives and professionals as part of this project. If you are an FM practitioner who has tackled a strategic project for your organization, we would like to interview you; please contact me directly at my Occupiers Journal email address:  jim.ware@occupiersjournal.com, to volunteer your story.

One more thing: fellow Occupiers Journal director Paul Carder and I will discuss the project and offer preliminary findings at education session 7.03 at World Workplace in San Diego, California, on Friday morning, 7 October. Hope to see you there!


by @paulcarder (References at footer)

You are probably quite familiar with the term “evidence-based design” (or EBD) as a corporate real estate, FM or workplace professional. In fact, there is a new EBD Journal. You may not have heard of “evidence-based management”, but it is a logical extension of practice started in healthcare, where ‘evidence’ to support decisions is clearly vital, and must be based on science (not just opinion). I’m sure we have all witnessed management decisions seemingly made on the basis of personal choice, politics, or fad. So, bringing sound evidence in to support management decision-making must be a good thing.

Denise M. Rousseau, Ph.D., is the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior Management Collaborative at Carnegie Mellon University, and editor of one of a number of books on the subject, including “The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management”.

Denise Rousseau and Eric Barends (2011) applied the principles to human resource management (HR), and open their paper on ‘becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner’ with a useful definition:

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a decision-making process combining critical thinking with use of the best
available scientific evidence and business information.

It seems to me that this practice could (and should) be applied to Facilities Management (FM).

Evidence-based FM

There has been much discussion in recent years about the similarities between HR and FM, and the need for the two disciplines to work more closely together in organisations. This lengthy extract from Rousseau & Barends (2011), I believe, could equally have been written about FM:

Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. HR practitioners have no single credential that authorises their expertise, and the occupation is open to those with no degree and those with several. There are no regulatory requirements regarding the education or knowledge an individual must have to become a manager or an HR professional. The HR industry associations SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) administer examinations to certify member expertise. At present, the SHRM exam is not highly evidence-based, instead supporting industry standard practice. In contrast, CIPD (active in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in Europe) focuses more on science-based knowledge and aligns with masters’ level university programmes throughout Europe.

If you swapped ‘HR’ for ‘FM’,…’SHRM’ for ‘IFMA’,…and ‘CIPD’ for ‘RICS’ this statement could almost be written about FM. So, what is good for HR could be good for FM.

Example: knowledge-worker productivity

One leading consultancy in the UK, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) has been digging into this subject, with their research partners, the Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa). Together, using an evidence-based management approach, they have identified what they call “the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” (AWA, 2015). This has been a thorny subject for many years, with a lot of opinions being traded, but often without a scientific approach. AWA and CEBMa have put aside opinion, and reviewed 161 papers, after screening for relevance excluding 102, leaving 59 relevant studies.

(nb., you can read the full process in Barends, Plum & Mawson (2015) listed below. This is part of Eric Barends’ published PhD thesis, and therefore detailed and robust).

Having worked with a few consultancies and service providers in the FM sector, this level of robust analysis of scientific evidence is rare, in my opinion. And could mark the start of a movement towards ‘evidence-based FM’, if the approach was copied by others in the sector.

The team set out to answer the following key questions:

1.What is “knowledge work”?

2.Which of the factors that have an impact on the performance of knowledge workers are most widely studied and what is known of their effect?

3.How do these factors enhance the performance of knowledge workers and how can they be measured? In addition, what are the implications of the findings for management practice?

Reviewers from CEBMa conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the available scientific literature and AWA used its knowledge and experience to translate the academic findings into practical guidelines.

Results: practical guidelines

Eric Barends (2015) PhD thesis, Chapter 5, Annex 1 lists the practical measures (in the form of a useful questionnaire) derived from the scientific literature: Measuring the 6 factors

(The level of each factor can be scored as follows: Strongly agree = 5; Somewhat agree = 4; Neither agree or disagree = 3; Somewhat disagree = 2; Strongly disagree = 1. When the aggregate team score is low (e.g. below 3.5), this is a strong indication for low team performance)

When reviewing the 6 factors below, an FM/Workplace manager could useful consider how the physical working environment provided, and the facilities and services in the FM provision, may help to raise the score to 4 or 5. 

Factor 1: Social Cohesion

1.Members of our team like to spend time together outside of work hours

2.Members of our team get along with each other

3.Members of our team would rather get together as a team than go out on their own

4.Members of our team defend each other from criticism by outsiders

5.Members of our team help each other on the job

Factor 2: Perceived supervisory support

1.My supervisor is willing to extend him-or herself in order to help me perform my job the best of my ability

2.My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work

3.My supervisor tries to make my job as interesting as possible

4.The organization values my contribution to its well-being

5.The organization strongly considers my goals and values

6.The organization really cares about my well-being

Factor 3: Information sharing and TMS (transactive memory system)

1.Our team members share their work reports and official documents with other team members.

2.Our team members share their experience or know-how with other team members.

3.Information to make key decisions is freely shared among the members of the team

4.Our team members trust that other members’ knowledge is credible.

5.Our team members are confident of relying on the information that other team members bring to the discussion.

Factor 4: Vision and goal clarity

1.This team has clearly defined goals

2.Our team goals are clear to everyone who works here

3.It is easy to explain the goals of this team to outsiders

4.I have specific, clear goals to aim for in my job

5.If I have more than one goal to accomplish, I know which ones are most important and which are least important.

Factor 5: External communication

1.Our team members use information obtained from external teams everyday

2.Our team is contacted by outside teams for knowledge and information

3.Our team scans the external environment for ideas and solutions

Factor 6: Trust

Horizontal trust

1.Our team members withhold information from each other

2.Our team members withhold information from the management

3.Our team members in general trust each other

Vertical trust

1.The management trusts the team to do their work well

2.The team members can trust the information that comes from the management

3.The management withholds important information from the team members

4.The team members are able to express their views and feelings towards management

Application to FM and Workplace/management

It can be readily seen how the evidence from the almost 60 papers reviewed in detail has delivered these ‘6 factors’ as set out above, and how a consultant or in-house change manager could drop these factors into a spreadsheet tool and create a useful survey tool.

It is less easy to see how an FM/Workplace manager could use these ‘6 factors’ directly. But it does provide a sound list of the factors which affect knowledge worker productivity, working in organisations and teams. However directly applicable, the advantage of this evidence-based approach, above the many lists created by knowledgeable consultants and FM practitioners, is that the ‘6 factors’ above can be traced back to scientific evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals.

Academic partnerships to create new knowledge in FM

What is set out above is a great example of a consultancy partnering with academics, to bring robust academic findings into FM and Workplace practice. It would be good for the developing FM profession to see far more of these academic-practitioner partnerships, which would deliver knowledge into FM practice. There is a large amount of peer-reviewed academic knowledge ‘locked away’ in academic journals which, as AWA and CEBMa have shown, can be collated and transferred into practice.



Advanced Workplace Associates, AWA (2015) “The 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” available at: http://www.advanced-workplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6_Factors_Paper.pdf

Barends, E.G.R., Plum, K., & Mawson, A. (2015). “The Added Value of Rapid Evidence Assessments for Managers and Organizations“; in Barends, E (2015) In Search of Evidence Empirical findings and professional perspectives on evidence-based management, PhD Thesis, VU University of Amsterdam, pp. 93-120. available at http://hdl.handle.net/1871/53248.

Rousseau, D. M. and Barends, E. G. R. (2011), Becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner. Human Resource Management Journal, 21: 221–235 available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227792752_Becoming_an_evidence-based_HR_practitioner

Rousseau, D. M. (2012), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management, Oxford University Press.


By Paul Carder; t. @paulcarder

This blog is a bit UK-oriented, for which I apologize in advance, but the key points are fairly universal.

I have just travelled up from Bristol to east Docklands, London – a bit of a schlep. Near London Docklands City airport, but not exactly central for the rest of the UK. The Facilities Show might reconsider this – Birmingham was more central. Inevitably the train was also delayed on the way back. Oh for more video-conferencing! However, it was just-about worth it to catch up with some old friends, most of whom I didn’t expect to be there.

My original reason for the trip was to find out more about The Building Futures Group (@TheBFGrp), a recent merger between trade bodies and training organisations. They are “the only organisation collectively representing the housing, property, cleaning, parking and facilities management sectors in the UK”. That is, as a trade body, representing their member companies in those sectors.

It was interesting (to me anyway) that our friend and supporter Johnny Dunford (@johnnydunford1) had sponsored the seminar, in his role as Global Commercial Director at RICS. I had tweeted before the event that it would be great to see TheBFGrp apprentices work right through to Chartered FM Surveyors…it could be done, and what a great success story that would be.

The panel discussion was as follows:

Building Trust and Professionalising FM

Panel included: Ian Jones (ITV), Guy Stallard (KPMG Facilities) @Guy_Stallard, Johnny Dunford (RICS), Sarah Bentley (@SarahBFGrp), Chris Hoar and a guy from Compass Group (sorry, I didn’t write down his name).

I’m not sure where to start with trying to summarise this discussion. Sarah opened, followed by Chris Hoar; then an uplifting presentation by Ian Jones about his view on being a great FM. Thereafter a slightly rambling discussion ensued, mostly by the panel, with a few questions. The audience were a bit on the quiet side.

Sarah reminded us that the TheBFGrp launched in April 2014. The story of the merger is across all the FM trade press, so we all know who joined, and who withdrew (i.e., BIFM). In fairness, two months is not a long enough time to expect much output yet. But, unlike the BIFM, the purpose of the TheBFGrp is at least clear. It is a trade body, in support of the service providers in our broad industry.

I noted two specific aims, from Sarah’s opening piece:

  1. Training: fit-for-purpose, for the industry – and defined pathways for progress.
  2. Professionalising: bringing the industry up to the levels increasingly expected.

‘Trust’ was the main subject of Chris Hoar’s opening words, and I found myself entirely agreeing with what he said. He talked about “love-in’s” that we all see at conferences; i.e., where client and service provider tell the audience how much they love each other, and that all is going so well.

It’s true – maybe it happens in many industries, I wouldn’t know – but in property and FM we hear a lot of mutual back slapping and limited useful analysis. Chris asked, “Are we afraid to tell the truth?” For sure, and worse – we’re in a culture of ‘good news only’. That’s why we get so much more from the breaks during conferences than we do from many of the ‘sales pitch’ presentations – over coffee you can ask, “OK, so what ‘really’ happened then?” Wry smile from the presenter, and maybe the truth – or occasionally a look of horror that you may dare ask for the real lessons to be shared!

Chris also asked whether there is a difference between public and private sectors, and if so, should there be? And he followed this by asking whether partnerships really happen. Sezgin Kaya (Accenture) made a good point in response – that any relationship with a fixed term (like a contract) cannot be a partnership. And Sezgin also inadvertently kicked off a discussion about ‘economies of scale’ (bundling contracts, looking for cost savings)….and we were off! Down the same route as always…we should not be competing on cost, but rather on service and value-add to users.

I entered the debate with a comment that I could have made (and did) more than a decade ago. That is, FM has driven itself into becoming a commodity, in most cases. And it is not all the service providers’ doing, as many clients have pushed for lowest cost. But, I was working on a “cost versus service level” matrix, for each service line, in 1998 at Johnson Controls. I took it with me to Barclays later that year, and a couple of years in, tried again to get FM companies to create such a matrix. They didn’t get it, or didn’t want to ‘codify’ service and cost in that way – maybe a bit of both.

It was a simple as the car-wash price card at your local petrol filling station. Do you want a quick wash for three quid? Or wheel scrub etc? Or the full wash and wax for five quid?

I’m not naïve enough to think that a matrix of cost versus service level for any FM service would be quite so basic as a car wash! However, with some thought (and the will to do so) this kind of information could be presented to the market: even with lots of caveats.

Without something akin to what I have described above, sadly much of the great advice given by Ian Jones will not get acted upon. Ian talked about the need to “hire character, train skills” (a quote from Peter Shutz). Ian’s talk was really all about investing time in the development of people, through apprenticeships, job rotation every two years, job swaps and mentoring. I’m sure that all the service providers in the room would like to work for Ian! It takes time to do all of this great stuff, and time costs money.

So where do we go from here? Will we be having the same discussion in five years from now?

It does not need to be that way. The BFGrp could lead a programme to bring together service providers to agree a set of common ‘service level’ categories. It would take a bit of time and thought – but over several workshops, it could be achieved. Then, using the standard IPD/en15221 cost code, with a layer of additional granularity added, we could collate and plot FM service cost against service level, for different buildings in different locations, and so on.

Lastly, then anonymize the whole data-set, and publish it, as a ‘rough guide’ to the industry’s clients. They will clearly see, then, the differential between say, a ‘Bronze’ service level and a ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’.

Eventually, the whole industry will start to learn how not to answer the question, “how much?” with a number, but rather with a series of questions. What level of service do you actually need? And are you prepared to pay for that level of service?

Professionalizing FM debate:

Well, as I said, it didn’t really happen. Nor did I discover anything new about TheBFGrp plans, which I was hoping to. But hey, they’re only two months old – we need to give them a chance.


It is a day of mixed feelings and emotions. Pride in the child, becoming an adult, and starting to make his or her mark on the world. And some sadness that the child has outgrown the parent. That is where Facilities Management (or Workplace, or its many other aliases) is right now – on the doorstep, bags packed, and smiling as it enters adulthood! What lies ahead? Nobody knows for sure. But, I’m going to pretend I’m its mentor, and tell young ‘FM’ what I think it could achieve, if it works hard (or maybe, just works smart).

Before I do, just a thought for the parents of young ‘FM’, waving goodbye with a fond tear…….

Young FM had a bohemian start in life, born of many parents. Their was a ‘hard’ side – the construction, real estate (property), surveying, engineering, and architectural professionals. Even the occasional accountant or business manager. But, to balance the Yin and Yang, there was the ‘soft’ side – the hotelier, the caterer, the customer service manager, and the cleaner. And a few academics too – notably the psychologist. Some had been established professionals and were very old – like the architect, the surveyor and the engineer. Others were younger, acting very professionally – but would not call themselves “a professional”.

Oh, the arguments they had! Especially over that word “professional” – was it about “acting professionally” (which, some argued, they all did), or was it the somewhat loftier ambition of being “a professional person”? i.e., belonging to a “profession”. What was that anyway?

Well, young ‘FM’ has a bright future ahead – I have been a friend of the family for 20 years, so I have some knowledge of young FM’s background and skills. Having learned well from all those ‘parents’, young FM wants to follow a true profession. I have to explain what that could become.

Firstly, it must be about the pursuit of excellence. And self-criticism, openly and honestly, with the aim of achieving perfection. Like a surgeon – not slapping themselves on that back and saying ‘how great we are’, but rather, analyzing what could be improved.

Secondly, it must be about continuous learning – and sharing that learning. That means a desire to research, to collaborate, to publish learning for the benefit of other professionals, for the benefit of the profession as a whole, and its customers.

Thirdly, it must consider society, and the environment (human and natural) as its customers – not just the organisations that pay directly for its services.

How far off achieving this, is young ‘FM’?

Let us consider the last point first – society and the environment. Learning from all those ‘parents’, young FM is multi-skilled. It will be the ‘soft side’ of the family which comes to influence young FM most in the future. The lessons learned from the old hotelier, probably being the most valuable, alongside the psychologist with a strong interest in how physical surroundings and great service ‘lifts’ the human spirit. The hotelier took young FM around his grand building one busy afternoon, having both spent the morning at the dull offices of the accountant. The hotelier told young FM:

Look around – these people pay me to be here. They love it – we make them feel special. Why? its just a building, like the accountants office visited this morning. But we have smiling Concierges, not uniformed security guards. We have artwork on the walls for the benefit of our guests, not corporate logos and slogans for the benefit of the corporation. Subtle differences, perhaps?

This continued on, as they walked around – every minute detail being picked up by the hotelier. Not one opportunity to impress a guest was going to be wasted. It was a defining moment for young FM – realization that all this could be achieved in any human environment, with some of the hotelier’s passion for excellence.

FM has a promising professional career ahead, making a difference to society, by lifting the human spirit through people’s surroundings and a passion for service. And making a difference to the environment, by providing facilities that do as little damage to the planet as possible, and also give people the opportunity to ‘work, rest and play’ with less need to consume resources for travel.

Young FM thought about this, and reflected on the point about research, and continuous learning – and the need to share this learning for the benefit of the profession and society as a whole. Where is that research?

I have to tell young FM that there is research out there, but that it is spread around in pockets of excellence in disparate places. And that is one of the big challenges for Facilities Management in its route to becoming a true profession. The many ‘parents’ of young FM still hold parts of the body of knowledge – that needs to be brought together, into an holistic Facilities Management body of knowledge. It is a challenge that we will write about many times, as we follow the career of young FM, en route to becoming a true professional.